Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It's My Birthday!

Today I turn 45.  I am sure that I look 45, but I don't feel 45.  Most days I still feel like I am 25, until about 3:00 PM, and then I lose steam…..if I get a cup of coffee, that perks me up, but then I cannot sleep at night, and then I am tired in the morning when the alarm goes off at 5:00 AM, and so the cycle goes….


Today is going to be a fabulous day!

We actually began our celebration last night after supper. Jimmy and the children presented me with two beautifully wrapped gifts with instructions to open them "right now". So I did.  And I was given marvelous presents:  a huge bag of M&Ms, a bag of Hershey Kisses, and the movie Moms' Night Out.  Fun!  Our whole family (minus our college student) gathered in our den to eat chocolate and watch the movie.  Even the third time, that movie is hilarious!  Jimmy and the boys had never seen it, so it was fun to hear them laugh too.  Jimmy even stayed awake for the entire movie!

Today we will celebrate with a birthday lunch at a Japanese restaurant, and then this afternoon we will be watching Julie and Clay run in their first cross country meet of the season.  I slept in this morning, and I don't plan to run or do (much) laundry today.  My children and husband are so sweet to make this day special for me.  I intend to enjoy every bit of it.  Sam and Julie are in the kitchen right now preparing breakfast.

I read the book of Philippians this morning.  This verse stood out:

"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."
Philippians 2:3-4

I think this verse can apply to numerous areas of my life.  From my service to God to my relationships with my husband, my children, and my family and friends.  Dying to self is difficult.  Yet Jesus commands it.

For this my 45th year and for all the remaining years of my life, I aim to keep the following verse in the forefront of my mind:

"I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:14

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Fun Weekend

We had a fun, uneventful, but very enjoyable time together this weekend.

Lori and I met Julie for supper at our favorite Starkville restaurant, Oby's.  But before we decided for sure that's where we wanted to eat, we considered a couple of more places.  Julie's daddy, who lives in Starkville, suggested the Dawg House if we wanted some place different.  So Lori and I asked the (young) guy who was checking us into the hotel if he recommended the Dawg House.  He looked at us, thought a moment, and then said, "Well……I am not sure if the Dawg House is where you ladies want to go…..it is a Friday night and all…..there will be lots of college students there…..you MAY BE TOO MATURE FOR THAT CROWD!!

What did he just say?

Did he mean mature as in "too old"?

We weren't sure.  So we just opted to dine at Oby's, and we were not disappointed!  We enjoyed our yummy sandwiches and fries, and we talked and laughed and talked and laughed (and drank lots of sweet tea) until we were almost the last people still in the restaurant.

When we arrived back at the hotel, the nice young guy at the front desk asked us where we ended up going for supper.

I told him, "Oby's.  With the mature crowd."
He sheepishly grinned.

Lori and I talked until about midnight, and then Saturday morning we met Julie and Jean Ann at the Kim C. Gee Race For Awareness at 8:30.  Lori and Julie did not bring running/walking clothes, and we already knew that Jean Ann was just going to spectate, so I decided to just watch too!  

 Jean Ann, Me, Julie, and Lori.
Young college girls!

As I expected, we shed a few tears when we saw Kim's husband, mother, sisters, and children.  But it was so good seeing all of them.

After the run, we all went to the Phi Mu house.  We were let in by some college girls, and we promptly told them, and everyone that we ran into, that we were among the first girls to live in that house (not that long ago).  We gave ourselves a tour, and we found these cute letters in the chapter room.  They were begging for a photo!

young college girls again

We wandered up and down the halls of both floors, and we found our photos in the huge composite pictures lining the walls.  Yes.  Everyone had big hair from 1987-1991.  We visited the rooms that we lived in.  We admired the improvements that had been made.  And we celebrated the news that the house was going to get a facelift and some renovations soon.

Julie and Jean Ann had to leave after this, but Lori and I enjoyed one more meal together at the City Bagel before heading back to Tupelo.  

It was a good visit.  We really missed our friends who could not join us. 
But don't worry---we talked about them!  (all good things, of course)  :)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Moms' Night Out

Tonight and tomorrow as well, I am having a Moms' Night Out (although I don't foresee Jimmy and my children, nor my friends and I doing any of the following:  a.  ending up in jail, b.  visiting the ER, c.  going to a super nice restaurant, or d.  bowling.)  Ha!  Ha!  Ha!  (have you seen the movie, Moms' Night Out?)

Anyway, one of my college roommates, Lori, is picking me up this afternoon, and we are headed to Starkville.  We are meeting another friend, Julie, there, and then we will joined in the morning by Jean Ann.  Many of my other dear college friends were invited to this event, but as it is with husbands and children, they all have various and sundry commitments, and so it is just the four of us.

Blast from the past--Lori and I in college!
(When I showed these pictures to Sam this morning, he said, "Are y'all wearing wigs?
No, son.  It's just the early 1990's hairstyles!

We really don't have any specific plans for the evening except eating (probably at an old college favorite, Oby's) and then talking and laughing, catching up and reminiscing, and I am sure also shedding a few tears.  

Tomorrow morning we will participate in the 8th annual Kim C. Gee 5K Run For Awareness.  
This race is memory of our dear friend (and one of my college roommates too), Kim, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer back in October of 2006.

Here is a picture of Kim and me (in our wig hair!) back in the day.  I think we had the same hair at this point in our lives…..permed, teased, etc.  We were also the same exact size, and we shared lots of clothes.  We were roommates in Hathorn Hall, our sophomore year, and we lived on the Phi Mu Floor. Fun times!

The next year, my junior year, Lori and I roomed together, and Kim and our friend Stephanie lived across the hall.  More fun times.  We were among the very first girls to live in our brand new Phi Mu house, along with Geri, Caren, Sharon D., Kim N., Jean Ann, Sharon B., Julie, and others.

Later, after we graduated, we (about 12 of us) were all in each other's weddings, and for a while we got together for bridal showers, baby showers, and just to visit for fun about once a year or so for several years. And when Kim got sick, we got together too.  And then we all gathered for Kim's funeral……
Now, at least some of our original group make it to Kim's 5K Run each year.

It will be good to see Kim's mother and the rest of her family.

And it will be so good to laugh and cry and just be with dear old friends!

Thursday, September 4, 2014


The Johnson Family is still alive and doing well.

I have been reading lots of books in my (non-existent) spare time, and so I have not made time for blogging.  Some for pleasure, and some for my children's school.

I made a major change in Julie's (12th grade) English plans, and that has required even more reading for me.  (It's a good change…..I'll share about that later).

We miss Olivia.  Missing her does not mean that her being far away at college is the wrong thing, but it just means that we miss her!  A lot.  I am still trying to send her some sort of mail--a letter, card, or package on most days.  And of course we talk, email, and text daily.

I ran the Tupelo 13.1 Miler last weekend.  It was a fun race, and Leanna and I were very happy with our time.  We got a very cool shirt and an even cooler medal.  I have tried to maintain 30 miles per week for the last month, and our official marathon training (my 6th time to train!) begins next Monday. I am crazy for training for another marathon, but I am crazy anyway, and at least I will be crazy and fit.

My swimming pool water is as green as our grass.  I have never in had water this color for so long.  I have done everything I know to do to it, but without any success.  If I can ever find/make the time to go to town, I will take a pool sample to the pool place and let them diagnose my water.  Yuk!

Chemistry is hard.  Clay is doing chemistry this year, and it is hard!  Jimmy has volunteered to be his tutor, and he spent a good bit of time last weekend studying the first two modules and teaching and explaining all the concepts and math portions to Clay.  Clay told me that he spent 7 hours practicing the math problems for the test!  And he made an A!

I cooked spaghetti squash for the first time last night.  It was good.  I just halved it, scraped out the seeds and pulp, sprayed a little olive oil mist on it, salted it, and baked in on 375 degrees convection for about 40 minutes.  Then Julie scraped it out into strands with a fork.  Delicious.

That sums it up.  We have finished several read aloud books over the last weeks, and we began reading Farmer Boy last night.  That is one of my favorites!

One more thing.  I bought a Smash Book.  Its theme is the months of the year.  I am not sure what I am going to put in it, or if I will ever even put anything in it, but I have wanted one for a while.  So I saw this one on clearance at JoAnn's last week, and I bought it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

What's Going On

Here is the short(ish) version of a long story.

I left on August 15 with all five children, in a fully packed vehicle with a carrier thing on top, hours of audio books and 3 new DVDs.  We arrived at Olivia's college 13.5 hours later.  What a trip!

We spent the night in a hotel, and moved Olivia's things into her dorm room that Saturday morning.  I was greeted with a wonderful surprise and a most unexpected blessing--Olivia's roommate and her mother had moved all of their things (Olivia's too) out of storage and into the dorm room.  It was all there.  Waiting for us to unpack.  I cannot express what a delight that was!  Olivia is in the same dorm room with the same roommate, but they had to move every single thing out of the room for the summer.  We stored most of it in a climate controlled basement storage area of a nearby dorm.

I stayed for 3 more nights there, and spent the time unpacking Olivia, buying her some groceries and a few items from Target, and then, one by one, all of the children except Leah came down with strep throat!  Olivia was first, and her case was the worst, because it was two days after her throat began hurting until she began treatment.  I found a Walgreens walk-in health clinic, and she was seen by the nicest nurse practitioner.  Next was Sam, then Julie, and on the Wednesday we arrived home, Clay.  So far, neither Leah nor I have a sore throat and Jimmy was here at home the whole time working…..I figure that if we were going to get it, we already would have.

Since Olivia was feeling so badly, and since she was contagious, I bought her school books for her and ran all of her errands.  She was beginning to feel somewhat better when we left for home on Tuesday afternoon.  We took her to an Indian restaurant for lunch before we left.  Yum.

We drove halfway, and stopped for the night in a hotel.  Then on Wednesday morning we got on the road early and arrived home about 2:00 PM.

We were so glad to be home, but we are already missing Olivia terribly!

We did school Thursday and Friday, and then Friday afternoon we traveled to Jackson to attend Jimmy's 20th year medical school class reunion.  We met my daddy along the way, and he took the children to my parents' house.  Jimmy and I joined them later Friday night after his reception.
We spent the night, ate lunch with them today, and then came back home this afternoon.  Home again!

We will get back to school next week!  I had budgeted these days for travel when I made my original home school year calendar.  So it's all good.

Except that we miss Olivia.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Smooth Homeschool Day

Is there such a thing as a smooth homeschool day? What about a smooth day in general?  While no day is perfect, I believe that we can takes steps to encourage a day that flows fairly smoothly.  Now this does not take into consideration the inevitable mishaps, but having a routine in place creates stability in your day.  Children thrive with the security of routine.  You don't have to be a drill sergeant or a tedious clock watcher with a timer, but finding your own personal rhythm to your own school day, and then teaching and implementing the routine to your children, will make for a productive day.  (Well, on most days!)

I wrote a post for Real Life At Home (formerly The Homeschool Classroom) three years ago entitled, 10 Ways to Make Your Homeschool Day Run Smoothly.  This article sums up my thoughts about creating a rhythm to your homeschool day.

We completed our 6th day of homeschool for this school year yesterday.  Fortunately, the schedule/routine that I created for us to follow is working smoothly.  When Julie begins her online college courses later this month, I may have to adjust our routine slightly….it depends on how well our internet provider cooperates with the online classes!  For the first few days, she may need me to help her navigate her courses, and I will have to make allowances in my routine for this.  The younger children will be comfortable with their schoolwork by this time, and I am hoping that they will be able to work independently while I assist her.

Olivia will be going back to college soon.  We are slowly packing her up.  Thankfully I saved the master list that I typed for her last August, and now it's just a matter of putting items in boxes/bags/suitcases/ and checking them off the list.  We stored a lot of her things at her school, so we do not have as much to carry this time.

My blogging will be sporadic as I adjust to the hours of marathon training, homeschooling for 7 hours a day, the children's extra activities beginning, and keeping the household running as well.

Have a great day!

"She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness."
Proverbs 31:27

Friday, August 8, 2014

Your Scheduling Questions Answered

Do you plan your group classes together first? 
I only do Bible with all of my children together.  They are welcome to listen to each other's Sonlight books, but Bible is the only thing that I require all of them to be with me at the same time.  I choose our Bible time based on what time I think all children will be awake, fed, and through with their chores.  I also take into consideration if I am training for a marathon or not, and realistically what time I will consistently be home from running.  Over the past several years we have had our Bible time anywhere between 8:00 and 10:00 AM.  This school year our Bible time is at 9:00 AM.  I have on my schedule to do writing and chemistry (when needed) with Clay (10th grade)  from 8-9.  I am making sure that I am through running by 7:45.  Julie (12th grade) is working on her online classes from 8-9, and Leah and Sam are eating breakfast, doing chores, and beginning their independent school work from 8-9.  We do our Bible lesson from 9:00-9:30.

How do you plan to be with each child at a certain time during the day and not cross over onto another child's time? 
I plan very carefully!  :)
I highly recommend reading and implementing the scheduling methods in Managers of Their Homes (MOTH), sold at Titus2.com.  I also have learned many tips which I use on a daily basis from Teri Maxwell's other books (sold on the same website), Managers of Their Schools and Managers of Their Chores.  I used to use the sticky tack and the huge spreadsheet that is included in MOTH when planning my new school year schedule.  Now I just pull up my last year's schedule and delete, add, and rearrange blocks in the table.  Then I rename it, save it, and print it out.  
But actually it's way more involved than that!
It takes a little bit of trial and error to get it all work out, but now I pretty much follow a similar schedule from year to year.

Here is an overview of my current school year schedule:
  • 8-9:  work with Clay; Julie does online classes; Leah and Sam do chores and begin independent school (using a laminated checklist that I have prepared)
  • 9-9:30:  Bible with all
  • 9:30-11:00:  Clay and Julie work alone; I assist Leah and Sam with all schoolwork except science and Sonlight
  • 11-11:30:  science with Leah and Sam; Julie and Clay work alone
  • 11:30-12:30:  school with Clay (check all his work, go over algebra, etc.); Leah and Sam finish up any schoolwork needed, Julie work alone (or she may be done by this time)
  • 12:30-1:30:  lunch.  I check email, attend to laundry, clean the kitchen, etc.
  • 1:30-3:00:  Sonlight with Leah and Sam.  I am doing 2 Cores.  I do one Core and then the other.  I alternate which Core I begin with each day.  Clay and Julie finish up any school work and then have free time.
  • 3:00:  I check Julie's schoolwork (really not that much, and I usually do it before this time.
  • extra activities, errands, housework, laundry, etc.
  • 5:00:  cook supper, kids do evening chores
Which leads me to these last questions.

School takes all day. When and how do you fit in all of your cleaning? How do you divide your chores with your kids and when do they do them if school starts around 8am? after school? 

We have very specific chore charts and lists.  The children  have before school chores (things like bring dirty clothes, pet care, make beds, etc.) and they also have evening chores (things like tidying different areas of the house, both inside and out, putting away clean laundry, taking out trash, etc.)  In addition to these daily chores, each child has weekly chores (things like dusting and vacuuming their rooms, cleaning out my vehicle, taking the trash to the road, cleaning bathrooms, etc.).  I divided my housework into areas and jobs, and everyone, even my 8yo has work to do each week.  I do not assign a specific day for these weekly chores to be done, but they must be completed by Saturday night.  I assess fines for any chore not completed by Saturday night.  Thankfully, I rarely collect any money!  I also do my fair share of the housework--the jobs that no one likes to do and the jobs that take the most time.  I usually do my housework 2-3 afternoons a week or on Saturday.

So, no, my house is not completely clean from top to bottom on any given day, but the whole house is cleaned once a week--just not all clean at the same time.  
I will add, that I do have a housekeeper that comes once a week and cleans my main floor.  That is a huge help, and I am very grateful that I have this help.  
My children are hard workers!  Jimmy is a hard worker too, and we just seem to keep the household running.  Our house is  never "magazine perfect", but it's homey and for the most part clean and orderly.

One last tip:  We pick up all the clutter every day

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Our First Day Of School

We started our 2014-1015 school year bright and early Monday morning….about 7:30 AM.  I had a special breakfast ready.  (Normally our breakfast is self-serve).

I shopped at our local teacher supply store a few weeks ago, and I bought several products with the same apple theme/print.  I had fun planning our back-to-school celebration with these apples things.

Here is the table…..I copied a table I had seen on Pinterest….with a few modifications.

 I hot-glued green felt pieces cut out like leaves to the red plates. On the right are two pieces of chalk tied with ribbon.  The chalk is for writing on the placemats!  Another Pinterest idea!  I spray-painted old vinyl placemats with chalkboard paint.  It took three coats, and some of the placemats wrinkled up, but I had 5 that turned out fairly smooth, so I used those for the children's place settings.  I taped an alphabet letter initial on each child's cup, and I made a place card using white card stock, red paper, and the apple stickers that I bought.

I made this banner by glueing some of the apple cutouts and the black letters on a banner I bought from Hobby Lobby.

Here are the children enjoying their breakfast.
Then they drew on their placemats.

After breakfast, we had our annual back-to-school treasure hunt.  I had 9 clues that the children took turn reading and figuring out, and then for clue #10, I typed up 5 separate clues, one for each child, which led to the treasure.  This year's treasure was a pack of Sharpies for everyone except Olivia, who got Frixion erasable pens.

One last thing before actually beginning our schoolwork was to take the first day of school pictures.

We began school later than what I have planned for regular school days.  I think it was 9:00 before we started.  We did our Bible lesson and worked on other school work for a while, and then we took a snack break.  Again, this is a first day of school treat---normally, snacks are self serve too--when you are hungry.
Both snack ideas were from Pinterest.  Jimmy made the popcorn sacks (out of notebook paper), and he helped me get the "chalk" out of the straws.  (I melted white chocolate candy discs, sucked them into a straw, and froze them until they were hard).

We did more schoolwork after our snack break, and then I had one more special surprise for the day:  homemade alphabet soup.  (I had put it in the crock pot earlier in the day).

We continued with our schoolwork until 4:00 that afternoon!  It did not take all of my children until 4:00 to complete their work, but it took me that long to work with my children and check their work.

And then I canned a batch of tomatoes!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Some Planning Links And Ideas

First, some answers to one reader's questions.  (I'll get to the healthy meal planning and preparing in another post).

When you plan, do you plan by starting with your oldest first and working your way down?
If you mean my actual planning out my lessons for each child, yes.  I begin with the oldest, and completely prepare his schoolwork.  Then I move to the next child, and so on until it is all done.  This cannot be done in one day.  At least not for me.  I typically take at least one day per child.  One reason it takes so much time for me to plan each child's year is that I am planning for the entire school year

 I look at our calendar and mark all of our days off, vacation days, etc.,  This year I used a form that I found at TeachersPayTeachers.com.  After marking all weekends, vacations, holidays and such, I figured out which day we would need to begin in order to get 160 days of school squeezed in.  We will begin August 4.

Next, I look at the curriculum and plug in assignments with dates that correspond to my calendar.  I only do this for certain subjects.  For subjects like math and grammar, they know to simply complete the next lesson.  

Here is a sample of one of my plans:  Notgrass World History for my 10th grader.  This is printed on one page, and given to my child to keep in the front of his notebook.  He checks off assignments as they are completed.  I have a similar plan already typed and printed for second semester.  I like to do the entire year before we begin, so I don't have to spend every Sunday night getting ready for the next week.
You will notice that the dates do not reflect a traditional Monday-Friday school week.  They are dated to include 5 days that we will do school.  My children do school for 80 days each semester, but these 80 days are not in 16 straight Monday-Friday weeks.

World History
August 4,-December 15, 2014

  • Each school day complete one lesson in the textbook.
  • Omit the Project assignments at the beginning of each unit.
  • Do complete the Bible and Literature assignments at the beginning of each unit.
  • After each day's lesson, complete the questions in the Student Review Book. Answer the questions in a notebook
  • Please give me the answers each day to check.
  • At the end of each unit, please take the Quiz. The quizzes will be in your Test Binder. You may use your notes or your book to help you with the quizzes. You will take the quiz on the same day that you finish the last lesson in each unit.
  • After units 5, 10, and 15, you will take an exam. You will need to complete a study guide and study for the exam during the week of the units prior to each exam (units 5, 10, and 15). The next day you will take the exam, and then begin reading the next lesson. The exams can be found in your Test Binder.

Aug 4 - Aug 8
Unit 1
Oct 31 - Nov 10
Unit 11
Aug 11 - Aug 15
Unit 2
Nov 10 - Nov 17
Unit 12
Aug 19 - Aug 27
Unit 3
Nov 18 - Nov 24
Unit 13
Aug 28 - Sept 3
Unit 4
Nov 25 - Dec 4
Unit 14
Sept 4 - Sept 10
Unit 5, study guide
Dec 5 - Dec 11
Unit 15, study guide
Sept 11 ***
Exam 1
Dec 15 ***
Exam 3
Sept 12 - Sept 19
Unit 6

Sept 22 - Sept 26
Unit 7

Oct 8 - Oct 14
Unit 8

Oct 15 - Oct 22
Unit 9

Oct 23 - Oct 29
Unit 10, study guide

Oct 30 ***
Exam 2

For my high-school children this year, I created plans like this for world history, economics, American Government, Spanish, and IEW.

Here is a sample of Teaching The Classics (IEW).  This is a 5 week or 25 school day course.

Teaching the Classics

Watch DVD (45 minutes). Have notebook and student book.
Finish DVD.
Watch DVD (45 minutes). Have notebook and student book.
Finish DVD.
Read "The Ransom of the Red Chief" by O. Henry.
Complete Homework Lesson 1.
Take Lesson 1 Quiz. Review homework.
Watch DVD (60 minutes). Have notebook and student book.
Finish DVD.
Complete Homework Lesson 2.
Review homework.
Watch DVD (45 minutes). Have notebook and student book.
Finish DVD.
Complete Homework Lesson 3.
Review homework.
Watch DVD (45 minutes). Have notebook and student book.
Finish DVD.
Complete Homework Lesson 4.
Review homework.
Watch DVD (45 minutes). Have notebook and student book.
Finish DVD.
Complete Homework Lesson 5
Review homework.
Watch DVD (45 minutes). Have notebook and student book.
Finish DVD.

Here is a link to an article I wrote for The Homeschool Classroom  (now called Real Life At Home) in 2012.  It explains how I homeschool multiple aged children.  You can click here to read this post.

Planning for my elementary aged children does not take as much time.  We use Sonlight, so that is all planned out for me.  I have used this curriculum for years, so all of my books are already labeled.  I did order my final new core this summer, Core E, and I had to insert the lesson plans into the binder.  I also had to purchase about 10 new books, so I labeled them and added them to Core E's bookshelf.  (I had previously done the combo D/E core, so I had a lot of the books).  

For elementary Apologia science, I just looked at my school calendar and determined that if spend 6 school days for each chapter, we can complete two of their courses this school year (botany and astronomy). I am not sure if this is a good idea or not.  I will see as the school year progresses. So I copied the suggested schedule that is included in the Apologia student notebooks, and wrote the dates that we needed to complete each chapter by.  Again, this took me a little bit of time last week, but I have saved myself many, many minutes throughout the year.  Anything I can do now to save me time once we actually begin school, I do it.

I will answer the other homeschool planning questions over the next few days.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Trip to the Zoo

Monday our family and our friend, Jessica, visited the Memphis Zoo.  Even though it is July, we are having a "cool spell" here in Mississippi, and the weather was really nice.

We spent our time in one side of the zoo, and so I plan to take the children back soon to visit the other side.

We began by watching the sea lions show, and then we ate lunch.

 Lunch at the "Cat House"

 Seeing the elephants.
Olivia reminded us of the difference between African and Asian elephants.
(I can't remember which kind these were!)

After lunch and the elephants, we watched the grizzly bears being fed.  There were three bears, and right before feeding time, there they were, heads up, waiting for the food to be dropped!

 "I'm hungry!"

After being fed various fresh fruits and then a hunk of frozen fruit in some sort of popsicle, these bears were ready to play!  I think we stood and watched these two bears interact, chase, and play for at least twenty minutes.  It was quite entertaining.

We visited some more animals, and then posed the children for a picture.

 Sam, Clay, Leah, Olivia, and Julie

Our last stop before heading back to the car (well, the next to last stop……Leah and Sam wanted to visit the huge gift shop first) was to wade in the stream.

After leaving the zoo, we went to Target.  Because of course if we go to Memphis, we have to visit Target!  We all had an afternoon snack of Starbuck's coffee (and Icees for Leah and Sam) while we looked all around Target.  We were able to get a few things that Olivia needed to take back to school, so that was productive.

Yesterday I canned more tomatoes!  Actually I made 9 pints of spaghetti sauce out of that batch of tomatoes.  Tomorrow I am canning black beans, and probably on Saturday I'll have more tomatoes ready to can.  And that will be it for a while.  I plan to put all my canning paraphernalia back in the basement---it's all on my dining room table right now.  We start school next Monday, and I don't think I will have time to can anymore.

I'll post homeschool planning links and tips beginning tomorrow---at least that's my plan!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Planning, Not Canning

Yesterday I spent every spare moment that I had planning for our upcoming school year.  I thought about blogging the process, but I did not want to take the time out yesterday while I was working.  I hope to finish it all up today.

I also redid our chore charts and made a new school day schedule.  I was concerned at first that there was no way to fit all subjects in the day, but I think I have a workable plan.  It requires that we begin at 8:00 AM.  That is not a problem, except that I also crazily signed up for a marathon in December.  So, I am not sure how I am going to get a long run in and still be ready for school at 8:00 AM.  Thankfully, the long run is only once a week, and I can do it on Saturdays sometimes.

Our outside the home activities this year are the same as in the past.
Piano:  once a week--Julie, Leah, and Clay
XC:  twice a week--all children
art:  5 times each semester--Leah and Sam

Hopefully I can write or republish a series of posts regarding school planning and scheduling.  What topics would you like covered?  Leave me a comment, and I'll be happy to answer your questions.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Canning and Planning

That's the theme of my days lately.  I canned pinto beans today.  7 quarts.  I have learned that I prefer to can in pint jars instead of quarts, because my pressure canner will hold 19 pints, but only 7 quarts.  However, I bought a case of quart jars, and I want to use them.  I think I have 5 or 6 quart jars left.

Kelly asked me last night (while Jimmy and I were eating supper with Kelly and Lynn) why was I canning all this food.  "Are you preparing for some world-wide disaster?"  I told him that I didn't know why I was doing all this canning.  Well, the tomatoes are coming in like crazy, and it's either can them or let them ruin….but for the beans…..I can't remember why I thought that buying 75 pounds of dried beans and canning them was such good idea.

Except that they taste so much better than the cans you buy in the grocery store.  And I hope that I am buying myself some time when school starts---it's a lot faster to open up a home-canned jar of beans and reheat them than to remember to soak dried beans overnight, and then either cook them all day in the crock pot of watch them simmer on the stove top for 2 hours.  I think I will be glad come fall.

I just made a Final School Planning To-Do List.  It is as long as the piece of paper in my notebook!  And I did not even itemize the things to get Leah's and Sam's school ready.  Once I get all subjects planned, organized, and ready for each child, I will tackle the huge project of creating a daily schedule for us to follow.  Going with the flow does not work for me!  I am not a slave to my schedule, but putting in all on paper and seeing how it could possibly work in a perfect world gives me a goal to aim for.

I'm going to work on my school list now.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Canning and Complaining

I drove to Nashville and back yesterday to pick up Olivia and Julie.  Since I was in the car for over 8 hours, and half of that I was alone, I did not have that much opportunity to complain!  It's easy to not complain when you don't have an audience.  Or anything to trigger the complaint.

On the way home, when we had about 85 miles left, all of a sudden there was a huge tree in the road.  So of course, the first thing I did after I stopped was to take a picture of it!  :)

This gave me an opportunity to complain……I did not say anything while several complaining thoughts went through my head.

This is going to make me late getting home…..I have so much do when I get home…..I will be late cooking supper…..I have no idea really where I am nor how to get to a road that will leave me home…..I have to can tomatoes tonight……

But instead I just turned around, headed in the opposite direction, got off the Natchez Trace, and waited for my GPS to reroute itself.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Nothing.

So we drove a couple of miles south on this unknown highway (because I knew that my home was south of where I was!), and then I pulled over into a parking lot and let my GPS do its work.

Finally.  It gave me a path home.  After about a 20 mile detour, we ended back on the Natchez Trace, headed south, with about 71 miles to go.  All in all, it really was not that much out of the way.

We were later than I planned getting home, but thankfully, Julie volunteered to cook supper, and I began the process of canning tomatoes.  I canned 9 pints.

Today I am canning pinto beans.  7 quarts are in the pressure canner right now.  I am going to can beans one more day this week, and tomatoes as needed, and then I am done canning for a while.

I have got to get my school plans finished and all of my things organized and ready to go.  I shopped at our teacher supply store today and bought some really cute things for our Back to School Celebration.

Oh.  On my drive to Nashville, I finished The Giver.  What an abrupt ending!  But I saw on Amazon that there is another book that should wrap things up.  I can't remember the name, but I will be reading it. We finished The Cricket on the Heath on the way home.
I am reading The Cat of Bubastes as a pre-read for Clay.  My older girls and Jimmy have all read it, but I wanted to so I could discuss it with Clay.  I am almost finished reading Carry On Mr. Bowditch (and that book is so sad!) with Leah and Sam, and I began reading to everyone The Phantom Tollbooth this morning.  We are also listening to The Candymakers in our car.

Lots of reading going on over here!

Monday, July 21, 2014

No Complaining and a Recipe

I saw this picture on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and I saved the image.  I did not visit the website, so I really have no idea about that, but the concept of not complaining for 24 hours intrigued me.  Challenged me.  I started paying attention to myself, to see how much I actually complained.  I consider myself a positive person, but when I listened to myself, I was surprised at how much I actually grumbled and complained.

It was the little things that I complained about.  Things such as, "I did not sleep well at all last night."
"Why is there torn crayon paper all over the kitchen table?"  "I will NEVER get all my school planning done before August 1st."  "I will be canning beans and tomatoes FOREVER!"

This verse kept popping into my head:

"Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…"
Philippians 2:14

It's actually pretty simple.  Do all things without complaining and disputing.  But much easier said than done.  In my mind, the opposite of complaining is gratefulness.  It 's hard to complain about a situation when you are looking for something to be thankful about.  So, I decided to repeat one of my favorite verses when I was faced with something to complain about.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I have thought about this challenge of not complaining for a whole day several times over the last couple of weeks.  But until today, I have not purposed to actually do it.  So today, I will try.  I plan to be well aware of what I say.  When I perceive that a complaint is going to leave my mouth, I will purpose to pause, and then rephrase what I wanted to say.  State it with a positive slant.  Don't say it at all, if there is no benefit to the hearer, but just something to gripe about and/or vent about for me. 

I suspect this will be more difficult than I think, but I am willing to try. 

Last week I found this recipe online, but I have no idea where.  I copied it down in my notebook when I stumbled upon it, because I did not want to try to remember the website.  I made a few changes, and this is the final product.  We thought it was delicious, and I plan to serve it again this week.

Curried Cauliflower and Rice

2 cups cooked rice
2 cups shredded carrots (I do this in my food processor.)
1 head cauliflower, cut into small pieces
2 cups fresh spinach, torn into small pieces
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

For the dressing:
1 lemon, squeezed
2 Tablespoons curry powder
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
more salt to taste

Roast cauliflower and garbanzo beans (salt them a little) at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Just check it and take it out when it is slightly brown and done.  I actually put my oven on convection, and it takes about 15 minutes. 
Combine this with the rice, carrots, and spinach in a large bowl.  Mix the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to blend.  Pour over the rice/cauliflower mixture and stir to combine.
Let stand a few minutes for flavors to blend.

This dish has a slight Indian flavor without being too strong or spicy.  I served this with a green salad and some fresh fruit.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Little Road Trip and Some Good Books

I left at 7:00 this morning to take Olivia and Julie to Nashville to meet Olivia's college roommate and her mama for lunch.  Then Olivia and Julie went home with them (to Kentucky) to spend a long weekend.  They are attending a Jane Austen Ball on Saturday night.  I am not sure what all that involves, except for wearing beautiful costumes, but I am sure that I will learn all about it when they get home!

We listened to three-fourths of The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens during the four hour trip up there.  Then, when I was driving back alone, I listened to The Giver by Lois Lowry.  That book definitely gives you something to think about!  The theme of sameness is somewhat disturbing.  I'll finish The Giver when I drive back to pick the girls up, and then we will finish The Cricket on the Hearth on the way back home!  I download these and other audio books from Audible.com.  I have already downloaded some books for our trip to take Olivia back to college next month.  I try to have at least one book from both Leah's and Sam's Sonlight list for long trips.

I finished reading Follow My Leader last night to Leah and Sam, and tonight we will pick up Carry On Mr. Bowditch.  We are about halfway through with this book, and it is one of my favorite read alouds.  When we finish it, I plan to read aloud The Phantom Tollbooth to all five children before Olivia goes back to college.  I have read it aloud only one time, and that was a few years ago.  We really liked it, but I am anticipating stopping a lot to explain the play on words to Sam.

I am almost through with The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I am really, really enjoying this book.  I may even start a little happiness project of my own.

What books are you reading?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Julie's 17th Birthday

We celebrated Julie's birthday last Saturday.  As my girls get older, it is getting more and more difficult for me to think of new and fun ideas for their table decor.  I don't even look at Pinterest!  I try to keep it low key and use items that are actually part of their birthday gifts, instead of buying a lot of decorations that I will have to store.  

Julie has an interest in quilting (she already knows how to piece a quilt and hand quilt it), and she asked for some quilting pattern books and fabric for her birthday.  Both sets of grandparents gave her money for her birthday gift, and so she is going to buy exactly what she wants.  However, I bought a few small items that were quilt related to use for table decorations.

 The Table
The three baskets in the middle came from my party box.

 Each basket held items like yarn (not quilt-related, but they matched the paper goods), quilting pins and needles, a quilting thimble, and some quilting fabric strips.

 The birthday girl with her morning coffee

 Sweet Sam, waiting on his breakfast.

Our family birthday traditions include:
  • A surprise decoration of our kitchen table when the birthday child awakens.
  • Wrapped gifts (some of them lovingly handmade) stacked in front of our fireplace.  They are opened either before or after breakfast, depending on the wishes of the birthday child.
  • All three meals of the day selected by the birthday child.  We will take them to a restaurant, order take-out, or I'll prepare a home-cooked meal, whatever the child wants or a combination of all three.
  • A special dessert (with candles) selected by the birthday child
  • All other family members doing the birthday child's chores for the day.
  • No school if the birthday falls during the school year.
  • A day of leisure for the birthday child.  He or she is allowed to spend the day playing/crafting/reading/building, etc. with his or her gifts.  
  • The day only comes once a year, and it is an important day, celebrating the life of my precious child, so we try to make a big deal of it.
  • Large parties are not necessary, nor do we even have outside the family birthday parties every year.  There is no rhyme or reason to whether or not my children have birthday parties, we just take it year by year and child by child.

 Julie with her gifts.

 Opening a set of books from Olivia.

 Displaying the pot holder that Leah made her.

 The requested birthday dessert:  homemade banana pudding.  I actually made the vanilla pudding from scratch!
Clay decorated the top.

 Singing "Happy  Birthday"!
Jimmy's parents surprised us with a visit, and so we invited them to stay for supper.  We had lots of cooked fresh vegetables (including tomatoes and squash from our own garden) and corn bread. 

Sam, Granmomma, and Leah.

Happy Birthday Julie!